Argentina were stunned by Bolivia in their World Cup qualifier following the match day suspension of superstar Lionel Messi.
The visitors came to La Paz on the back of a two-match winning run but got their first surprise when diminutive Juan Arce somehow overpowered Argentine defender Facundo Roncaglia to head a brilliant opener for the hosts on the half hour mark.
And it was a 2-0 in the 52nd minute when the Argentine defence fell apart to leave a simple finish for Marcelo Martins Moreno following a brilliant run and cross from Jorge Flores.
Tonight’s match was the first in a four-game ban for Messi by CONMEBOL and FIFA, who was also fined 10,000 Swiss Francs (£8,111) after being reported to world football’s governing body after a foul-mouthed outburst at an assistant referee during last week’s 1-0 win over Chile.
Despite his suspension, the Barcelona superstar attended to support his teammates.
Messi, 29, was enraged by a decision given by official Dewson Silva during the first half, and was caught on camera verbally abusing the official, reportedly declaring: “f*** off, the c*** of your mother.”
It continued as the official joined the rest of the officiating team in the centre of the field at the end of the game. Messi was again in discussion with the officials and actively avoided shaking the hand of Silva. Brazilian referee Sandro Ricci subsequently pointed Messi towards the tunnel as the five-time Ballon d’Or turned shaking his head at the assistant.
Without Messi, La Albiceleste took a while to get going and they almost fell behind as early as the fifth minute but Pablo Escobar’s touch let him down when alone at the far post after a mistake from Ramiro Funes Mori, while Raul Castro tested visiting goalkeeper Sergio Romero with a long-range strike midway through the first half.
Angel Di Maria was unfortunate not to put away Argentina’s first real chance after 27 minutes but the Paris St Germain midfielder fired his well-struck effort just wide before the same man collected Angel Correa’s terrific ball moments later but failed to get past home stopper Carlos Lampe.
Just after the half-hour mark, Bolivia took the lead when Arce scored a stunning header from Escobar’s long-range cross as he beat defender Facundo Roncaglia in the centre of the penalty box with his back to the goal.
The home side doubled their lead seven minutes after the break as Jorge Flores cut the ball back and picked out Martins, who was waiting in the area and made no mistake as he tapped home from the edge of the six-yard box to double his side’s lead.
Visiting coach Edgardo Bauza brought on Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero to add some firepower up front four minutes later as they looked to get something from the game.
The away side won a free-kick just outside the 18-yard box after 60 minutes but Ever Banega’s effort was well cleared by the Bolivian defence, while at the other end Roncaglia denied Martins his second of the night with a vital block.
Di Maria set up Lucas Pratto with two great crosses as the half wore on and the Sao Paulo striker slid in to meet the the ball but came up inches short for the first one before heading well wide with a disappointing miss with the second as Argentina fought to reduce the deficit, but the home side held on for maximum points.
The result leaves the visitors third but under pressure from Colombia, Ecuador and Chile, with only the top four countries qualifying, while Bolivia sit 12 points further back in ninth with four matches remaining.